The Bethel College softball team finally got to play a home game Thursday, sweeping a doubleheader against Central Christian College at Allen Wedel Field.
Bethel won the first game 6-4 and the second game 12-4. The second game was called after five innings on the eight-run rule.
Earlier attempts at the home opener against Hastings College were rained or snowed out.
“It was great to be home and it was nice to play,” Bethel coach David Middleton said. “The first sweep of the year and the first doubleheader of the year. We’ve been playing in a lot of tournaments. It felt really good. We haven’t had a chance to play back-to-back like this. (Practice has been really tough. We have a 30 degree rule. If it’s 30 degrees or higher, we’re out here. We were a little rusty, but what practice we’ve had outdoors paid off.”
Bethel improves to 4-5, winning four of the last five games. The Bethel schedule has included the top-ranked team in the NAIA (Oklahoma City University), the no. 2 team (University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma) and four games against teams that have received votes in the NAIA poll, going 2-2.
“Today, it made us really strong,” Middleton said. “We’ve been facing some of the top pitchers from the no. 1, no. 2, no. 15 and some other teams receiving votes.”
McDowell entered the season second in all-time innings pitched, second in wins (just four away from tying the school record), second in strikeouts, second in total appearances and first in total starts.
“We definitely want to make some noise in the conference tournament,” McDowell said. “We have a lot of returners and a lot of upperclassmen. We have some good transfers and newcomers as well.”
In the first game, Bethel jumped out 5-0 through three innings. Central got back in the game with two runs in the fourth inning. Each team scored in the fifth. Central scored in the seventh.
Bethel pitcher Madison McDowell went the distance for her first win of the season. She allowed three earned runs on seven hits with four walks and three strikeouts. She also drove in a run at the plate.
Laura Pineda went two for two hitting with two RBIs. Emalee Overbay also drove in a run.
Ashton Nelson went two for three hitting for Central, driving in two runs. Madison Walker hit a two-run home run. Lakota Wolf took the loss for Central, allowing four earned runs on six hits with a walk and a strikeout.
“We were throwing a little bit of everything,” said McDowell, a senior from Basehor. “We were hammering them with fast balls. I went at them with a screwball that was moving well. It helped that I had a pretty good defense behind me.”
McDowell is a four-year starter for the Threshers
In the second game, Rilynn Anderson and Jordan Hill each hit a run-scoring single for Bethel in the second inning. Central came back with three runs in the top of the third on a Jessica Aldana RBI single and a two-run single for Gizelle Lucero.
Bethel regained the lead in the bottom of the fourth on a two-run Anderson triple. Anderson scored on a Leisle Hoffman single. Pineda followed with a home run.
With two outs in the bottom of the fifth, Bailea Crist and Anderson each singles. Hill followed with an RBI single. Hoffman followed with a two-run single and stole two bases. After a Pineda walk, Riley Johnson doubled to score two runs and end the game.
Johnson, 3-1, allowed four earned runs on six hits with three walks and four strikeouts. Johnson went two for four hitting with two RBIs.
Anderson went three for three hitting with three RBIs. Hill, Hoffman, Peyton Uznanski and Crist all went two for three hitting.
“I was using a mix (of pitches),” Johnson said. “I was told they were bringing in some good hitters, so I wanted to keep them on their toes and use every pitch I had. Our hitting today was phenomenal. Our intensity in the dugout was high. It’s nice to know I have a team to back me up when I may not have everything go my way in the circle. They backed me up with some hits.”
Johnson is a junior from Salem, Ore. She transferred at semester from Northeastern (Colo.) Junior College.
“We’ve been working hard in the gym and in the cages,” she said. “We’re not letting the fact that we haven’t been on the dirt much get us down.”
Central falls to 3-6.
Bethel hosts Morningside at 1 p.m. Thursday and the travels to Leavenworth at 1 p.m. March 16 to open KCAC play at Saint Mary. Bethel split against Morningside, which received votes in the NAIA poll, losing 8-6 in Fort Worth and winning 2-1 in Grand Prairie, Texas.
“Morningside was a really big win for us,” McDowell said. “We’ve been trying to beat them for years. Now we know we can play with some of the best teams. It will be a head-to-head game. It will be close. We hope to pull out some wins.”
Wolf (L, 1-3) and Flores; McDowell (W, 1-4) and Overbay. HR — CC: Walker (1). Time — 1:40.
Sales (L, 1-1), Cantrell 5 and Francis; Johnson (W, 3-1) and Uznanski. HR — BC: Pineda (1). Time — 1:35